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Patient Claims Hospital Infection Led To Her Amputation

By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (WCCO) --  Two months ago, 23 patients at the St. Cloud Hospital were informed by letter that their bacterial infection was caused by a nurse stealing IV drugs. Now, one of those patients is angrily speaking out about her care and the alleged negative results.

For 36-year-old Connie Tucker,  it's the simple jobs like sweeping the kitchen floor that she struggles with, every hour of every day.

"I have to live the rest of my life without my arm," Tucker said.

Last November, the Little Falls woman was hospitalized after suffering from a serious blood clot in her left arm. Eventually, the deteriorating medical condition led doctors to amputate the arm just above her left wrist.

Tucker was being treated in the St. Cloud Hospital, during which time she also developed a bacterial infection. On March 15, she was informed in a letter by the hospital's president that she was among 23 patients inadvertently exposed to the bacterial infection.

The hospital admitted in the letter that the infection was the result of IV pain medication that had been compromised.

According to the hospital, a nurse had been stealing the drug by injecting needles into the drip bags and removing the drug. Saline solution was then squirted into the compromised bags to make it appear the bags were full.

"I ended up having a high fever and the doctor told my family that if they didn't amputate above the elbow I would die, because I ended up getting septic," Tucker said.

More of her arm was eventually removed above the elbow. Tucker suspects the infection led to the necessary amputation, however the hospital blames it on her body's poor circulation.

Meantime, she and her husband struggle with her prosthetic arm a constant battle with phantom pains.

"The pain is so intense I have to go to the ER all the time and now I have to have surgery," Tucker said.

The hospital has apologized to all 23 of the patients treated by the nurse and eventually infected by the tampered pain killer. But to Tucker's husband, Scott, it's little consolation to a life so changed.

"It's the little things you don't really think of. Braiding Montana, our daughter's hair. 'Ya know it's those little things," he said.

Tucker chokes back tears.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't cry and I wish I could get my arm back," she said.

For the record, St. Cloud Hospital was asked to respond to Tucker's statements. However, citing patient privacy, hospital management won't go into detail.

A hospital spokesperson did release a short statement which reads:  "We (St. Cloud Hospital) stand by our previous statement that all of the 23 identified patients were successfully treated for their infection(s)."

The criminal investigation into the stolen drugs and spread of infection is continuing. The hospital nurse suspected of the wrongdoing remains suspended and has yet to be charged with any crime.

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